Warehouses are facing increased pressures currently as they play a critical role as part of the supply chain process.
THREE critical factors are important to bear in mind with any warehouse: 1) the information that flows through the warehouse; 2) the labour used; 3) the layout of the warehouse and its processes.
Information is critical to the success of warehousing operations. It is exactly why an investment in a suitable WMS is recommended as well as necessary. With a WMS you can view everything that is happening in your warehouse as it is happening. Items and locations can be scanned, users can be tracked, errors can be rectified. A new sense of control is in place.
Like with any system; what you put it in, you get out. If your information is not correct then the WMS system you use will not work as it should. Ensure clear communication structures are established and that information is shared correctly. If the flow of information is not certain, draw it up as a process flow. Map what information travels where.
Labour can be viewed as the gears behind what makes your warehouse's clock work. If you invest in them, they invest in you. A little praise and recognition goes a long way. Engage with your employees. No-one likes feeling like 1) a number and 2) a person with no say. This does not mean your employees do what ever they feel like, this means you as an employer/manager/director do your bit to make them feel heard. You listen to their queries, upskill them whenver possible and respect them as individuals. Discipline is essential, but as a leader you are likely to get more out of your employees if they are happier and respect you than if they do not.
If any system/leadership/role changes occur, inform them of the change. Explain why the change is necessary and allow them to voice any fears or doubts about the change. The common view (in South Africa) is that warehouse labourers are easily replaced. This view is made well-aware to the workers and does not encourage them to work to the best of their ability. They begin to resent their managers... and that is where trouble begins.
Organization is critical to running an effective well-oiled machine. If all the parts of your car did not have an assigned function and space, how would the car run? The same can be said for your business; especailly your warehouse. If it is neat, processes are standardized and clear locations are established; fewer errors will be experienced.
If you are operating with a WMS, it will only make your own life easier if your warehouse is properly labelled. If your warehouse is labelled you will more clearly identify where each item belongs and what it's assigned location name is.
Take time to consider product placement as well as locations in your warehouse. Make sure that your layout makes sense, in other words, try avoid your workers wasting time as they run back and forth to fill an order.
*IDEA* If you want to change your warehouse layout but do not like the costs associated with it, then why not 'employ' a final year industrial engineering student to develop alternative layouts so that you can decide what you like best without spending a single cent? Go to the Universities and ask around. The siutation is a 'win-win' as the student recieves the experience and you (as the warehouse owner) acquire the labour for free.
“Always be prepared to change. Be forward thinking and just because you are doing well now does not mean the future will be the same. The tacit you use today to get a project done successfully may not work tomorrow. Also, your number one asset in the warehouse is never technology it is the people utilizing the technology. Always look for the success of your people, that is the key to your success." - anonymous